After a year at the helm for Grimsby Town, Ian Holloway has resigned as manager, leaving them 20th in League Two and just six points above the relegation zone.
Last night The Mariners fell to their fifth home defeat and tenth overall for the season at the hands of fellow strugglers Bradford City, which followed a less-than-convincing victory in the Lincolnshire derby at the weekend.
Holloway guided the Lincolnshire club safely away from the threat of relegation last season before it was cut short, however, with a new-look squad, Grimsby have struggled again this season.
The ex-Crystal Palace and Blackpool manager cited a couple of factors for his resignation on his personal Twitter account, with the main reason being the “inappropriate” approach of the club’s potential new owners made towards him.
Holloway’s said: “New wannabe owners are hovering over GTFC and [the majority shareholder] John [Fenty] has told me he is selling his stake in the club. So, it is time for a fresh start across the board for this great club.
“Contact was made by the new owners to me on several occasions before the takeover, which I felt was inappropriate, and told them as such. This is the key factor in my decision.”
Boardroom issues too much for Holloway
Not only has it been a tough season on the pitch for Grimsby, but the club have also been shrouded in controversy off it too, with pressure building on majority shareholder John Fenty from the fans to sell his stake in the club.
It was revealed over the last couple weeks by the Grimsby Telegraph that convicted fraudster Alex May had offered to buy £1million worth of shares in the club, after being pictured attending games at Blundell Park on several occasions with shareholders.
Fenty’s involvement with Mr May, who changed his name by deed poll from Alick Kapikanya after being jailed for mortgage fraud in 2014, had Grimsby fans calling for his head after it was also revealed that the majority shareholder had set up a business with May, named “Town Centre Living”.
With everything out in the open, Fenty resigned from his position as deputy leader of the North East Lincolnshire council and the company he set up with Mr May is now set to be struck off and dissolved.
The club eventually rejected the convicted fraudster’s bid although fans of the club are still not happy with the current boardroom situation and have been pushing for change on social media.
Moreover, it is now known that businessman Tom Schutes, alongside Jason Stockwood and Andrew Pettit, is ready to revisit his takeover bid after it was halted earlier in the year when Fenty decided to take the club off sale.
However, it seems to be that all this uncertainty became too much of a negative distraction for Holloway, taking too much of the focus away from the team as they battle for their place in the Football League.
Is Holloway responsible for the struggle?
When the 2019/20 season was curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Mariners seemed to be on an upward curve on the pitch, with their last game a confident 2-0 victory in the derby away to Scunthorpe United.
The team had shown great progress from the side that had gone 15 games without a win just before the 57-year-old’s appointment but cut back today, Grimsby seem to be right back to where they started just under a year ago.
Key players from last campaign such as Charles Vernam, Jake Hessenthaler, Elliot Whitehouse and Bradley Garmston were allowed to walk for free, with the club unwilling to offer them the pay packet players of their quality perhaps deserved.
With just 13 senior players signed on for next season, there were big gaps to be plugged in the squad and Holloway responded by making 15 summer signings, experienced EFL players Kyle Bennett and Sean Scannell among them.
However, as the season has progressed at a rapid rate with little time to prepare, it was clear that Holloway was unsure on his best side and perhaps that he had gone with quantity over quality with his signings.
The defending has been haphazard at the best of times, and aside from a few bright moments from non-league arrivals Montel Gibson and Ira Jackson Jr, the team have lacked inspiration up top without the likes of Vernam to guide them.
The now ex-Grimsby manager has also made some questionable decisions along the way, for example, his choice to drop Town’s longest-serving current player and captain James McKeown for three games in place of 38-year-old Sam Russell in goal which did nothing to change the team’s fortunes.
Overall, it has been a mixed bag at best with Grimsby for one of the best managers the Football League has seen in recent times, and although the club’s tight financial approach restricted his ability to improve the team in the summer, he must take some responsibility.
It will be no easy task for whoever is picked to take the hot seat at Blundell Park, although fans would certainly welcome the return of Paul Hurst, who guided the club back to the EFL after six years of non-league obscurity in 2016.
Sol Campbell, whose managerial experiences so far have only been with struggling Football League clubs so far is also amongst the bookie’s favourites along with a surprise inclusion of former Lincoln City manager Danny Cowley.
The next managerial appointment will have to take on more than just a faltering team, and it is sure to be a long, tough, yet interesting couple of weeks for Mariners fans moving forward.